When a person learns they have lung cancer, the news is devastating enough. That person, along with all their closest associates, family members, and friends, already has an enormous plate of turmoil to contend with as it is. When the stress of the situation is compounded with issues adding to the drama that could otherwise have been avoided, it makes the matter worse. It also serves as a breeding ground for some of the biggest lung cancer lawsuits of all time. There are ten that come to mind that deserves mention.
About Lung Cancer
Also known as lung carcinoma, lung cancer is a malignant tumor that develops due to uncontrolled cell growth in the organ’s tissues. There is more than one lung cancer condition, including the rare sarcomas of the lung which is generated by the malignant transformation of connective tissues such as bone, fat, muscle, and nerve. Lymphomas and melanomas have been known to result in lung cancer. They’re rare, but they do occur.
Over time, uncontrolled growth can spread beyond the lung, metastasizing in the process. This may be done directly or by entering the lymphatic or hematogenous circulation. As a bloodborne spread, this cancer can reach other tissues throughout the body. The majority of cancers starting in the lung are carcinomas, namely small-cell lungs and non-small-cell lungs. The most common symptoms associated with lung cancer include coughing, chest pains, shortness of breath, and weight loss. As the condition advances, coughing up blood may become part of the equation.
Over eighty-five percent of lung cancers are directly connected to long-term smokers. The remaining fifteen percent have been known to affect people who are not smokers. Like all forms of cancer, there is a combination of factors involved such as genetics and environmental exposure. Biopsies, chest radiographs, and computed tomography scans are the common practice to determine if lung cancer is present in the body or not.
When diagnosed, the treatment and long-term outcome will depend on the type of cancer and what is the degree of spread. What stage is it in and what can be done? Unfortunately, the majority of lung cancer patients don’t survive this life-threatening condition. Even with the common treatments of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and surgery, there’s no guarantee the battle against this form of cancer will be a winning one. In 2020, according to the American Cancer Society Journal, of the 2.2 million people who were diagnosed with cancer, 1.8 million of them died.
Why the Lawsuits
Some of the lung cancer lawsuits have a connection to environmental causes such as asbestos. Currently, Top Class Actions has been reaching out to potential victims from the North Carolina and South Carolina states who’ve been exposed to certain residential and work environments within the past three years. As this continues to make news, some light has been shed on previous lawsuits that threw companies held responsible into the spotlight for failing to provide a safe environment for the people they either employed or housed. There’s also a flurry of lawsuits filed against tobacco companies for knowingly selling a product to consumers that literally is a threat to their health.
10. Christina Prudencio vs. Johnson & Johnson ($26.5 Million USD)
While the $26.5 million USD awarded to Christina Prudencio in 2021 isn’t over yet, the drama of this story continues as Johnson & Johnson found themselves on the receiving end of additional class action lawsuits against them that so far remain unresolved. For Prudencio, the usage of J&J’s beauty products has resulted in the terminal condition of malignant mesothelioma, a form of cancer that affects the abdomen, chest wall, and lungs. The worst part of this story was the fact Johnson & Johnson knew they had the cancer-causing ingredient known as chrysotile asbestos in the talc powder they manufactured and sold to the consumer market.
They were made aware of this by a researcher who worked for the company but deliberately moved forward with this toxic product anyway. They chose not to remove it until 2020 but only agreed to do so because of the growing number of lawsuits filed against them. Despite this, Johnson & Johnson still appealed the decision. They also appealed the $2.1 billion USD class action lawsuit that was filed against them when women who also used the talc powder developed ovarian cancer. The US Supreme Court denied the appeals but the company is still trying to dodge taking full responsibility for its actions. In fact, the majority of Johnson & Johnson-branded products have been linked to cancer-causing ingredients that are still being sold on the shelves today. According to Top Class Actions, Johnson & Johnson will be busy with thousands of lawsuits for some time now.
9. Roby Whittington vs. US Steel ($250 Million USD)
According to Karst & von Oiste LLP, the largest case of mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, saw a lawsuit filed by a retired Roby Whittington against US Steel. The original verdict amount was $250 million USD in favor of Whittington but the surviving wife of the now deceased steelworker for the company agreed to settle for about $50 million USD. This lawsuit occurred in 2003 in the state of Illinois.
8. Estate of Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt vs. Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company ($300 million USD)
In 1991, the estate of Stanley and Susan Rosenblatt led the charge of a class action lawsuit when the flight attendants shared their concerns as victims of secondhand smoke. The case was finally settled in 1997 when the tobacco companies agreed to spend $300 million USD on settlements and tobacco-related diseases.
7. National Settlement Program vs. Owens Corning Corp. ($1.2 Billion USD)
A decision was made in December 1998 for Owens Corning Corp. to pay $1.2 billion USD in product liability lawsuits that discovered the asbestos building materials it used were responsible for the legal claims issued by the individuals involved. Originally, the National Settlement Program started with 176,000 claims before it exploded to 237,000 thousand. Unable to afford the debt owed to the people (and the families they left behind due to deaths) that developed mesothelioma cancer, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as of October 2000. When the company reorganized itself, the Owens Corning/Fibreboard Asbestos Personal Injury Trust was established in 2006. This trust was funded with $5 billion USD to compensate the families and victims of both Owens Corning and Fibreboard Corporation. By 2008, the trust had already paid out $1.4 billion USD in asbestos claims.
6. Richard Boeken vs. Philip Morris Companies ($3.55 Billion USD)
It was a seven-week-long trial loaded with emotion as a longtime smoker suffering from lung cancer won a civil lawsuit filed against Philip Morris Companies. In the end, Philip Morris was ordered by a jury to pay $3 billion USD in punitive damages, plus $5.5 million USD in general damages to Richard Boeken. Since he was sixteen years old, he smoked the company’s Marlboro brand for forty years. In 2001, the Los Angeles County Superior Court charged Philip Morris on all six counts of fraud, negligence, and making a defective product.
Michael Piuze, the lawyer who represented Boeken, poured an emotional assault against Philip Morris as an irresponsible company that glamorized cigarette smoking for the benefit of making a profit. Doing so at the expense of people’s lives apparently wasn’t enough for Philip Morris to take full responsibility for knowingly creating and selling a product known for its harmful effects as it attempted to appeal the decision, feeling the judgment against them was too harsh.
5. Norma Broin vs. Philip Morris USA ($5 Billion USD)
According to Source Watch, Norma Broin was a flight attendant who was diagnosed with adenocarcinoma, a form of lung cancer that came from exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke. When smoking was still allowed on public airplanes, she worked in an enclosed work environment where the air quality level was unsafe. This was the first class-action lawsuit that brought up the effects of secondhand smoke on non-smokers which resulted in twenty-five former flight attendants suing eight different tobacco companies that demanded $5 billion USD to be paid in damages.
4. Estate of Michael Johnson Sr. vs. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company ($23.6 Billion USD)
As covered by NBC News, the Florida jury agreed the R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company needed to cough up $23.6 billion USD to the widow of Michael Johnson Sr. In what became one of the state’s largest wrongful death verdicts in history. Johnson died in 1996 from lung cancer as a longtime chain smoker of the R.J. Reynolds tobacco products. Prior to this, the Johnston estate previously won a $17 million USD verdict as compensation for his family’s loss. When the jury made the verdict, it made it clear companies need to be held accountable when they lie to their customers. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company is the makers behind the Pall Mall and Camel cigarette brands. Despite the decision, R.J. Reynolds intends to file an appeal against what it feels was an unreasonable decision.
3. Betsy Bullock vs. Philip Morris USA ($28 Billion USD)
A jury in Los Angeles, California, first awarded lifelong smoker, Betsy Bullock, $28 billion USD in damages right after she was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2001. This was a 9-3 jury vote that made this decision. However, the judge later reduced the payout to $28 million USD instead. This was appealed by the defending tobacco company, Philip Moris USA. After Betty Bullock died from lung cancer in 2003, her daughter, Jodie Bullock became the new plaintiff and continued the fight in her mother’s place.
In 2008, Philip Morris USA failed to convince the judge to reverse the jury’s decision. It’s a legal battle where the tobacco company still refused to accept responsibility, each time an appeal was made the courts continued to rule in favor the Betsy Bullock. In 2009, NBC News revealed the jury’s final decision still saw to it financial compensation was due to be paid by Philip Moris USA.
2. Dr. Howard Engle vs. American Tobacco Company, Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., Dossal Tobacco Corp., Liggett Group, Inc., Lorillard Tobacco Company, Philip Morris USA, the Council for Tobacco Research – USA Ince., The Tobacco Institute, Inc., and various parent and affiliated companies. ($144.8 billion USD)
In July 2000, Miami Beach pediatrician Dr. Howard Engle and six other plaintiffs in this class action lawsuit were awarded a landmark $145 billion USD decision that demanded Philip Morris USA and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company be held accountable for misleading the public and government in regard to the dangers of cigarette smoking. This decision was overturned in 2003 which has since resulted when the decision was appealed in court as it was felt the amount was excessive. However, this was petitioned by thousands that were filed in the Florida Supreme Court. Dr. Engle himself received a six-figure settlement from a guaranteed fund provided by the tobacco companies during the appeals process.
1. Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement ($246 Billion USD)
In 1998, four of the largest tobacco companies agreed to settle cases in which the forty-six states filed a claim. The claim is that cigarettes contributed to adverse health issues, including cancer. Because of this, it spiked the costs for state public health systems. This is what triggered the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement.
As a result, these tobacco companies agreed to stop engaging in advertising practices. They even included appealing to minors and children. These tobacco companies also had to make annual payments to the states involved. This is to pay for the anti-smoking campaigns and public health programs. They were also ordered to fork out a minimum of $206 billion USD over the first twenty-five years. In addition to this, there was another $40 billion in related settlements, as well as the $45 million USD Philip Morris USA Inc. had to pay after falsely advertising the Marlboro Lights and Marlboro Ultra Lights cigarette brands.